'Comments for and against': mixed messages on Medicare Local centres

MEMBER for Calare John Cobb says he has been given “mixed messages” about the effectiveness of Medicare Local centres.

Health Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday gave a clear indication Medicare Locals could be cut in the May budget.

The previous Labor government set up the 61 Medicare Locals, which co-ordinate primary health services such as after-hours GP clinics and mental health support.

But the coalition has long opposed Medicare Locals as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, and after the federal election launched a review of the $1.8 billion scheme.

Mr Dutton said the government would soon make an announcement about the future of Medicare Locals, a day after reports the community health bodies could be scrapped next month.

Mr Cobb said the complexity of the way Medicare Local operates was difficult for members of the public to understand.

“I have had comments from the medicos both for and against it,” he said.

“So I think a review is probably very timely.”

Medicare Local has offices in Orange, Bathurst, Cowra, Oberon, Parkes, Forbes Mudgee and Cowra.

Medicare Local replaced the Central West Division of General Practice and was identified by the Western Local Health District (WLHD) as a key agency in the delivery of better health services.

Western NSW Medicare Local chairman David Simmons said in the organisation’s last annual report he was pleased with Medicare Local’s strong working relationship with the WLHD.

“Our region is geographically large for a relatively small population so the organisation is always looking for innovative ways to deliver better health outcomes,” he said.

He said improved access to after-hours medical services and a strong framework for enhanced mental health services were among key strategies identified by Medicare Local in the region.

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